2A-District 4 FHSAA duals champion Creekside wrestlers and coaches (Photo submitted by Rick Marabell).
By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
ST JOHNS — If the competitive level of St Johns County wrestling could be measured by Wednesday night’s 2A-District 4 duals tournament, expect the county to become a powerhouse before long.
In a hotly-contested Creekside gym Wednesday night, the hosts (fourth-ranked in the Northeast) were able to win the first local FHSAA district duals title in Florida wrestling history with a 4-0 round-robin record.
But it wasn’t easy. The Knights beat a #6 Bartram Trail with several starters still in football shape (49-30) and St. Augustine (72-12) before being pushed to the brink by honorable mention-listed Matanzas.
Creekside had to pin out from 160 through 182 just to have a chance to defeat the Pirates, then added a fourth fall at 195 for a 42-36 win. The Knights then closed out with a 60-21 victory over Nease in the final dual of the night.
“What helped is that we have so much depth,” Creekside coach Rick Marabell said. “We had guys injured going in and we lost another one tonight, but we were able to plug guys in to take their place.
“We were able to fill people in and stay consistent. Matanzas was a tough out because a couple of weights didn’t go our way. The kids just kept wrestling and things worked out our way.”
Six wrestlers had 4-0 nights for the Knights (15-1), with Colin Brown (106, 3 pins), Luke Davis (113, 3 pins), Billy Shaw (160, 3 pins & 12-3 major), Brandon Dickman (182, 3 pins), Trey Chesser (195, 2 pins & 6-2 decision) and Saul Storey (285, 4 pins) all undefeated.
Creekside will face the 2A-District 3 runnerup in Region 1 quarterfinal competition on January 11, at a site to be determined. District 3 duals are scheduled for January 4, at Ridgeview.
Figuring out the district runnerup spot got the calculators going toward the end of the evening, as Matanzas, Bartram Trail and #7 Nease all were 2-2 on the night, with 1-1 records against one another in head-to-head competition.
When the number-crunching was complete, it was Matanzas, with 174 points, that had emerged. The Pirates defeated Nease (34-30) and St. Augustine (70-12) before taking losses against the St Johns County Knights and Bartram Trail.
“We worked hard this summer, and I think we saw (the result of that work) tonight,” Pirates coach John White said. “We beat a tough Nease team and it came down to the last match against both Creekside and Bartram Trail.
“Our big guys were ready, we continue to see that progress from them. The middles were key for us. Having (Tyrone) Jones (who came over from Flagler Palm Coast to start the year) is a huge asset. And the lower weights picked up bonus points when we needed it. I think we’ll see a different team in January.”
2A-District 4 FHSAA duals runnerup Matanzas wrestlers and coaches (Photo submitted by @MatanzasWrst via Twitter).
Stone White (126/132), Lawrence Russo (132/138) and Jones (145/152) were undefeated on the night for Matanzas (6-2). Jones went 4-0, with two pins, a 14-3 major and a 6-5 decision, while White was 3-0 with three pins and Russo was 3-0, with two pins and a 9-4 decision.
Matanzas will face the District 3 champion in a Region 1 quarterfinal on January 11.
Bartram Trail started off 0-2, but rallied for a 60-24 win over St. Augustine and knocked off Matanzas, 38-34, in the final dual for both of those teams.
“We’re not in wrestling shape,” Bears coach Chad Parker said, referring to Bartram’s state-finals run in football, which came to a close Saturday afternoon. “We had a lot of football kids, a great season, a good (playoff) run. Those kids got in several 30-minute pre-practices. We’re still missing our 138, still looking for a 182 that will come from football.
“I think we’re a much better team than we showed tonight. It just comes down to getting in shape now that football’s over. That’s a blessing and a curse, to come from a good dootball school.”
Two Bartram Trail wrestlers were 4-0 on the night. Nicholas Vugman (126) had three pins and a 6-2 decision, while Luis Parrales (145) pinned his way through the night, with four falls for the Bears (10-4).
Nease had two tight matches early, edging Bartram Trail, 40-39 in criteria (criteria H) before moving past St. Augustine, 59-21.
“We just didn’t catch the breaks, but the kids are wrestling hard. Injuries are what they are,” Panthers coach Craig Muckle said. “I love that this whole district is strong. If we all stay strong, as long as we stay like this, everything will be good for us. We’ll get good competition and I like these coaches. We’ve got a good district.
“The kids are just putting in the work to see where they’re at. They’re a strong finishing team, and that’s what they’re working toward. The end game is the prize.”
Sean Arnold (120) and Nick Thoresen (220) both were 4-0 for the St Johns Panthers (7-3). Arnold pinned his way through, with four falls, while Thoresen had three pins.
St. Augustine didn’t find a team win, but the Yellow Jacket individuals seemed to show a bit more than they had Saturday at Fletcher’s Preudhomme Duals.
“We improved a lot. We got a couple more of those 50/50 matches that we were talking about on Saturday, so that was good for us,” Yellow Jackets William Rinchiusa said. “One of the takeaways is that we need to get down to weight, kids need to cut down to what they certified.
“We needed some more of those matches to work out our way, and we needed to see what it’s like to wrestle teams in St Johns County. It was good. Stands were filled out, good to see support, nice to see wrestling going in St Johns County. There’s a lot of good kids here.”
For the Yellow Jackets (2-8), Tracey Beshara (170) was the only wrestler to go 4-0, with four falls on the night.
All five teams are back in action this weekend. Creekside is at Buchholz’s Bobcat Holiday Duals Friday, while Bartram Trail will be at Yulee’s duals event also on Friday. Matanzas will go to the Island Duals at Merritt Island on Saturday and also host a womens’ roundrobin tournament the same day, while Nease is at Seabreeze’s Hollingsworth Duals and St. Augustine is at Columbia’s Tiger Duals, both of those also on Saturday.